Going Great Guns in Gosport

| 29 March 2001

Imagine standing a few feet away from the breech of a fifteen-inch calibre naval gun as it fires a half-ton explosive shell at a target twenty miles away. What was it like to be on the receiving end?

Left: Missiles, including Sidewinder.

Visitors to Explosion! - The Museum of Naval Firepower, can get an impression of what it was like to load, aim and fire massive naval guns, torpedoes and missiles. And yes - you can stand next to a real atomic bomb (but no - it's not ticking any longer - the nasty stuff has been taken out.)

Above: Exocet missile

Explosion! opened successfully on March 24: there are no Foot and Mouth restrictions in the area. The £3.5 million Museum, at Priddy's Hard, Gosport, Hants, isn't just about weapons though, as director Michael Nutt is keen to explain.

Above: 15 inch gun breech.

It's also all about the people who worked long hours in dangerous conditions filling shells with explosive, machining fuzes and designing new guns, he said.

Mr Nutt is proud of the effort that has gone into Explosion so far: "It's not a lot of money these days for building a new museum. The designers, Event Communications, have done a great job bringing to life a difficult subject."

Priddy's Hard was the Royal Navy's main armament depot from 1771 right up until 1989, just after the Falklands War. The site grew from a core of explosives magazines, buildings and gunpowder loading wharfs until it eventually covered 100 acres.

At the height of the Second World War there were up to 4000 workers, mainly women, keeping the men at the front supplied with all kinds of ammunition and armaments.The centrepiece of the exhibition is a state-of-the-art multimedia presentation about the history of the site, set in the listed barrel-vaulted gunpowder magazine.

Explosion! should become a popular visitor attraction in a historic location - just across the river from Portsmouth Naval Dockyard and HMS Victory and Warrior, and the Mary Rose Museum.

Open 10am -5.30, seven days a week. Adults £5, senior citizens £4, students, benefit claimants and children £3

Why not take a look at the website at: www.explosion.org.uk

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